Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council


19th session of the Human Rights Council, Room XX © UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre
19th session of the Human Rights Council, Room XX, Palais des Nations, Geneva
© UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferre

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The system of Special Procedures is a central element of the United Nations human rights machinery and covers all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political, and social. As of 30 September 2016 there are 43 thematic and 14 country mandates.

With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), special procedures undertake country visits; act on individual cases and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to States and others in which they bring alleged violations or abuses to their attention; conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contribute to the development of international human rights standards, engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, and provide advice for technical cooperation. Special procedures report annually to the Human Rights Council; the majority of the mandates also reports to the General Assembly. Their tasks are defined in the resolutions creating or extending their mandates.
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What special procedures have accomplished in 2015 at a glance

The latest annual report on special procedures which covers the period from 1 January to 31 December 2015, provides updated information on the system of special procedures as a whole and its achievements, including facts and figures. It gives a comprehensive overview of the activities undertaken by special procedures in 2015, both individually and as a system, including country visits, communications, thematic reports, follow-up activities, joint actions, development of international standards and advocacy. The report also reflects the work of the Coordination Committee as well as covers the main issues discussed at the twenty-second annual meeting of special procedures of the Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from 8 to 12 June 2015.

Cooperation with the special procedures and acts of intimidation and reprisals

Engagement of individuals and groups with the special procedures without fear of reprisal is essential for the fulfilment of their mandates, as established by the Human Rights Council. Therefore addressing acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who seek to cooperate, cooperate or have cooperated with the special procedures or any other part of the United Nations system in the field of human rights is a priority for mandate holders. As a result of the growing attention given to this phenomenon and the increasing instances of intimidation and reprisals observed by mandate holders, they agreed during the 22nd Annual Meeting of Special Procedures, held in June 2015, to consolidate and enhance special procedures' response to this unacceptable practice by establishing a coherent framework for action. More information on the issue of reprisals and this framework can be found here.

Visual Directory

Directory of Special Procedures Mandate Holders

June 2016
English - Print version
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Annual Fact and Figures 2013

Annual Fact and Figures 2013

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Civil Society Handbook

Civil Society Handbook

Click here Chapter VI - Special Procedures and the Full handbook here (PDF, 1,28MB)

UPR recommendations relating to the Special Procedures (2008-2013)

UPR recommendations relating to the Special Procedures (2008-2013)

UPR recommendations  (PDF, 1,73MB)


21st Century Episode 111 - Human Rights in North Korea; and a holocaust survivor tells his story,
13 May 2016

Human rights… Who is watching?

The UN Human Rights Council has a group of experts who carry out visits worldwide to monitor and report on a wide range of human rights violations, reflect on different human rights issues and advocate for protection. They are the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, and for them it’s all about the people.

Transcript in Word

Film on Juan Mendez

I am a survivor of torture myself.

As a human rights lawyer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, has dedicated over 40 years to ending torture.

Transcript in Word

Visit of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Central African Republic -- Central African Republic, February 2015

Visit of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation -- Brazil, December 2013

Visit of the Special Rapporteur on truth -- Uruguay, October 2013

Visit of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children -- Italy, September 2013

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Feature stories

Feature stories about the Special Procedures of the
Human Rights Council.
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Contact us

Postal address:
Special Procedures Division
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10

Fax : +41 22 917 90 08

In Focus :

> Statement by the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, voicing concern that some countries are seeking to retrospectively block the creation of the mandate of an Independent Expert designated to tackle violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

> Statement of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures at the 25th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the recent situation in Aleppo, 21 October 2016

> Reports submitted to the 71st session of the General Assembly 

> Michael Addo, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee, presents the annual report of special procedures to the 31st Human Rights Council session, 15 March 2016
Statement | Report

> Statement of the Chair of the Coordination Committee at the 24th Special Session of the HRC on Burundi, 17 December 2015

> “As the Covenants turn 50, it is time to turn norms into action” – UN experts, 9 December 2015

> Migrant crisis: “High time for Europe to reclaim a leading role in human rights” – UN experts, 9 October 2015

> Joint statement by UN Special Procedures on the occasion of World Environment Day, 5 June 2015

> A central role for a civil society is the only way to guarantee inclusive post-2015 development goals, 18 May 2015

> Statement of the Coordination Committee at the 23rd Special Session of the Human Rights Council on Boko Haram, 1 April 2015

> Statement by the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures on the repeated hate speech and incitement to violence directed against the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, 20 March 2015

> Forthcoming country visits

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Latest news releases:

Racism in Australia
“All Australians have a role to play in ending racism and ensuring multiculturalism,” says UN expert on racism and xenophobia, Mutuma Ruteere.

China / Urgent appeal
UN experts urge China to investigate the whereabouts and fate of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who has disappeared since 21 November.

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For further information on how to submit communications on alleged human rights violations, please read the webpage on Communications and send your submission to: submissions to Special Procedures.